How long is a mile?

by Instant Noodle

WHAT IS A MILE?

We think that the question of “What is a Mile?”—a question which promises to swallow up in interest the Eastern Question, and all other questions which as yet remain unanswered—should be settled as soon as possible; for, until it is settled, we shall never be able to arrive at a proper settlement of the Cab fares. This settlement is due—not only to the persons who ride in cabs—but to those who drive them, for there are so many varieties of a mile, and so many different ways of measuring it, that it is impossible to say which is the right one. For instance—

If a young lady walks round the corner of the street in which she lives, she comes home quite fatigued, and “is sure she has walked more than a mile.”

If a husband is dragged—a little against his will—to a certain street where there happens to be a bonnet shop, though it is not more than twenty yards, he is morally certain “he has been taken a mile out of his way, if he has been taken an inch.”

It is curious the number of miles a mother-in-law has walked when she feels desirous, poor creature, of having a cab.

Besides, miles vary so much. A mistress’s mile is generally very different to a servant’s—a master’s to a clerk’s. Auctioneers’ miles are proverbially very short ones when they are describing a property as being not more than “an omnibus distance from town,” or when they are enlarging upon the merits of a Villa that is “only an easy drive from a railway station.” Travellers’ miles, on the contrary, are generally very long ones. You will hear a delicate young man, who has just returned from a pedestrian tour, boast of having walked his “two thousand miles,” just as if he had trailed a pedometer behind him, and had measured every inch of the road. Panoramas also, have a very elastic method of stretching out a mile, which cab-drivers would doubtlessly not object to adopt as their own particular standard of measurement. They talk very glibly of being “three miles long,” whereas, if the distance came to be measured, it would probably turn out to be—like cabmen’s distances generally—not more than half. There is another deficiency, too, that frequently occurs with the mileage question. We have known a distance, that when a party first went over it, was only four or five miles, become suddenly increased to eight or ten at least, when the same party—especially if a dinner party—had to go over it again on their way back. This difficulty has been felt so strongly at times, that every one of the party has preferred—at that late hour—stopping where he was, instead of walking home all that distance. These unnecessary difficulties imperatively call for a speedy answer to the puzzling question, “What is a Mile?” for hitherto the question has been passed over by our Police magistrates, from one parish to another, like a pauper, for the want of a settlement.

This article is from the midst of the Cabbie’s Strike of 1853, where they rallied against new fare regulations.

(1853)

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